Late one morning, I rushed into work, apron flying like a black crow attacking my back, as I whipped it around my waist and pretended like I had been at work for the past 5 minutes.
Next hands take coffee after coffee, croissant to plate, make a juice so we need orange yes, another orange yes, FUCK where’s the LID for thE JUICER! I’VE BEEN HIT! QUICK BEFORE SOMEONE SEES!!
NAPPPPPKINSSSS! Napkins? “No more napkins Jackie?“
I swear this job has become about managing heart-palpitations rather than earning money.
As more croissants hit plates, a napkin and baby fork are added before I’m charging out to the table in the carpark; the bell then rings and I cut across two blurred faces to take a babycino in my free hand. I feel the boss’s hand pat me reassuringly on the back like a dog just before I hit hyper-speed to the table and finally look up to see a pair of beaming bright circles, looking at me.
She looks confused and then delighted as the blue circles continue to stare, fluttering a small row of eyelashes in the lightest of browns.
“ I guess the babycino is for you? “ The blue eyes grow bigger as her cheeks light up pink, a bit like a mood ring. Captivated, my speedometer doesn’t budge as I begin to recognise these eyes.
“ Oh I remember you, ” I say as the blue eyes watch her mother stuff a straw into the cup. “ You came for dinner the other night. Lamb Fatteh right?”
“ Oh yes,” the mother says, having a tough time multitasking me and the cup.
“ Well I’m glad she’s okay. She looked so distressed after the yogurt.”
“Yeah… she’s definitely allergic.”
“ Well enjoy!” I say, as I take one more glance at the pair of perfect blue circles still staring at me over the lid of the cup.
An hour passes, and I go out to clear where the blue eyes sat. They belonged to a blonde-haired baby, with a chubby face and no teeth. She must be almost one, I think.
She came with her mother for dinner the other night. Her mother fed her some Lamb Fatteh only for the baby to find it too spicy and started turning pink. We brought her some yogurt to cool her down, which resulted in the baby vomiting profusely, while changing from a flushed pink to an angry red. The mother and baby were both crying around the time the mother rushed out of the restaurant.
It made me wonder for the first time in ages about what my child would look like; would they be the colour of greek yogurt or tan with a few of my features sprinkled on top…
”Arn’t you a Southern bell?” I asked. “Since, you know – you live in the South?”
Charisma laughed, “ Nooooooo?! But I do know some.”
Later that night, I layed on my back, feet resting on the headboard, as I chatted on the phone to my councillor Karisma.
From what I gathered, she was African-American and lived in Oklahoma. This meant we could only talk at the earliest, 10:30 at night for our fortnightly chats.
” I think you’d love the fast pace of America,” she said to me. “Especially New York.“
” I would love to go there.” I said.
“I really want to visit Australia when Covid is over. I looooooove the accent.“
” What?!” I say, baffled.
” The Australian accent is soooooo gross. Super twangy. ”
” What?!” Karisma says-
“ Well now it’s your turn, why would I like America?” I asked.
” Well… you study fashion right? New York is the place for you.“
“I mean… I do really want to go to the old fabric district and spend a day searching for some finds.”
“However to live, I wouldn’t suggest. Just visit- for sure.”
“Why?” I ask, suddenly deflated.
“Well, it’s really REALLY dirty. And every area has their own dress-code and kind of like, this one world with all these mini worlds inside it. And people are seated on top of each other. Like in coffee shops, your always touching like 4 people. Not one coffee shop is ever empty.”
” Not one?” Oh Idk about that… Sounds very impersonal.”
” Yeah…” she laughs.
“ You could say that. Like one minute, your walking down Manhattan and its beautiful and people are well dressed and then there is a whole pile of trash on the next block and the people have all changed and it’s crazy. “
“Ooooooo, sounds like different parts of a brain. And what about Central Park?“
“Ooh yes now when you go, make sure you take a horse and carriage ride through the park, okay?”
” hahahahaha What, WHY?’ Am I a 23-year-old Disney princess riding on a cloud of Lexipro?”
“HAHAHAHHAHA no, no I just mean you have to!” Karisma says.
“It’s magical. Everyone has to do it on their first time. Hahahhaha oh Holly you have to!”
(It struck me as quite ridiculous that someone married, christian and with a doctrine, who told me just last week that she was too busy to have friends, would also tell me to go ride a pony though a park that hundreds of people get mugged in a year…)
” Okay Karisma,” I laugh. “For you I will.”
When I hung up I felt all warm and full of hope, despite not having touched on any issues the call was intended for. I guess thinking about the future was more exciting and hopeful than diving into the past.
Talking about America felt like a fire was lit and all these marshmallow ideas were sweet and roasting inside of my mind; ready to eat.
From then on I started thinking about it in my spare time (which in lockdown, I seemed to be swimming in.)
On an afternoon run I decided I would save up a whole year of wages and take a trip around America in a van and explore it all, state by state. Ending it at an old friend’s place in Canada.
I thought about all the people I would meet and how amazing it would feel to never have seen any of the trees or landscape or shops ever before until then.
How I would enter into an old yellow and red dinner and have some sweet old lady pour me a cup of coffee from that communal coffee jug without me even saying yes.
And how I would have to calculate how much to tip. How I would spend my days writing on napkins when I ran out of notebooks. Possibly reading that list of the greatest books ever written, by the most brilliant of minds- 1984 George Orwell, The Llosa and the Odyssey by Homer, Moby Dick, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf, The Colour Purple, Jane Eyre.
Or perhaps I would write my own over the space of a year. And then take the following half a year or maybe even nights I wasn’t at work to piece it all together, reliving all the experiences.
I remember when I was 16, reading somewhere a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of Eat Pray Love):
“ Write something or do something worth writing about.”
I remember throughout highschool, I had the quote above my desk. And I remember it was so thrilling to wonder if writing would lead me to a degree or the later, quench my hunger for adventure.
As I drifted into sleep that night, my mind blinked with that pair of baby-blues. How it made me think about how unready I would be to become a mother now or anytime soon.
I also wondered if this dream of America will take shape. If a plane ticket will materialise one day in my bag and I won’t tell anyone until it’s done.
I’ll just disappear and pick up the pieces in a year. When I’m someone else and I’ve painted the inside of my head in violet sunsets from the Mexican dessert… and I’d have thought enough thoughts from under different trees I’ve never seen before.
And glue all these new experiences and places to myself, of a dream-like world that comes alive one day when I open my eyes.
And how one day. I would share my American adventures, (maybe in my very own book) to another pair of green eyes.
And watch as they trace the title with their little fat fingers. The dedication inside carrying their name and a quote about how the world was their oyster if they were only bold enough to try it.